Flying the flags of ‘Free Libya’ and with the upper deck packed with soldiers ready to support comrades already on the ground in Tripoli, the Al Hani was escorted by NATO warships from Benghazi, across the Gulf of Sirte, first to Misurata, then 120 miles (193km) further west to the capital.
It fell to HMS Liverpool to shepherd the ship on the final leg of the historic journey, with the Libyan sailors and soldiers on board enthusiastically waving and shouting thanks from the frigate’s upper deck.
Liverpool’s Commanding Officer, Commander Colin Williams, said:
As the Al Hani became visible on the horizon, Free Libya flags flying, it was clear that not only her ship’s company were on board - the upper deck was crowded.
This is a significant milestone in the rebel campaign - to take a former Gaddafi warship into the capital, until very recently held by Gaddafi, shows the extent of the achievement by the Libyan people.
This is one of the first steps to the establishment of a stable and secure country, free from the Gaddafi regime.
The ship is the only Libyan frigate in working order. The Russian-built warship fell into Free Libya Forces hands when Benghazi was seized during the opening moves of the civil war. Her sister ship, the Al Ghardabia, was knocked out by an RAF air strike in Tripoli harbour.
As for Liverpool, she’s now spent 108 days supporting NATO’s Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR and remains on station off Libya with HMS Ocean, HMS Bangor and RFA Fort Rosalie.